Sunday, May 25, 2008

Litany of Heresies #2

Heresy #2

Denying the inerrancy of Scripture and the status of the Gospels as historical documents.

Trying to argue or suggest error in the contents of Holy Scripture has also been infallibly condemned by the Church. The position taken by instructors that, for example, the accounts of Christ’s childhood are merely “stories” and should not be regarded as having actually happened is well outside the boundaries of orthodox doctrine.

The Second Vatican Council itself has confirmed the inerrancy of Scripture and the historical accuracy of the Gospels:

Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).[1]

Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1).[2]

I am aware that there are those who would twist the above words, especially the “for the sake of our salvation” language of the second paragraph, in an attempt to restrict the inerrancy of Scripture to only those matters touching faith and morals. This position is equally untenable in light of the remainder of Dei Verbum and other teachings of the Magisterium. The Council of Trent declared that:

It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand.

Following, then, the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testaments, since one God is the author of both; also the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession.[3]

This teaching was echoed by the First Vatican Council:

Now this supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, as declared by the sacred Council of Trent, is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or came to the apostles by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were passed on as it were from hand to hand until they reached us.

The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the said Council and as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition, are to be received as sacred and canonical.

These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.[4]

Moreover, the First Vatican Council also declares that it is impermissible to interpret Scriptures contrary to the unanimous consent of the Church Fathers,[5] none of whom regarded Scriptural error as a possibility. In addition, the clear teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium and the various Holy Offices on this point are equally unassailable.[6] To teach otherwise is to malign the Church.

[1] Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation) §11.
[2] Id. at §19.
[3] Council of Trent, Session IV, Concerning the Canonical Scriptures.
[4] First Vatican Council, Session III, Chapter 2, On Revelation.
[5] Id.
[6] Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors §7; Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae; Pope Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus §21; Pope Pius XII, Humanis Generis §22; Cf. Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus; Pope Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu. See also Decree of the Holy Office approved by Pope Pius X, Lamentabili Sane §11; Holy Office Monitum Concerning the Historical Truth of Sacred Scripture, Acta Apostolica Sedis 53-507; Pontifical Bible Commission, The Historicity of the Gospels, Part II, §3; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Profession of Faith §11.


Haskovec said...

I was under the impression that the catholic church didn't view all the bible as the literal truth. For example isn't Genesis viewed as an Allegory? I know fundamentalists tend to view Genesis as the literal truth, I work with a dude who believes the world is only 10,000 years old etc. Anyway further on this point here is some of Pope John Paul IIs remarks which led me to that conclusion:

Throwback said...

Note that none of the documents cited require literalism. Going back all the way to the Fathers, the Church has acknowledged different senses in which Scripture may be interpreted: literal, spiritual, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.

Genesis 1 is a good example. Another example might be the Song of Songs. I suppose a person might think that Solomon was reproducing an actual dialogue between a real man and a real woman, but none of the Church's commentators that I'm aware of would have said such a thing.

What you can't do is what so many folks try to do these days which is abolish the literal sense altogether. Christ's miracles are regarded as just graphic versions of parables. They didn't really happen. Or folks try to pit, say, John's view of Christ against Paul's. Or that Jesus didn't really say all those things in the Gospels. The best document on the subject is Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus, by the way.

The JPII address you posted is pretty famous. I think that he kind of goes a bit far afield here, but for the most part, he's right. Humanis Generis is still the guiding document for the Church on this as it is an exercise of magisterial authority. For all the hullaballoo over evolution, I have to admit that I really don't think about it unless a Protestant colleague brings it up.

Throwback said...

One other thing I should add. One must always begin with the literal sense because it is the literal sense upon which all the others are founded. That's somewhere in the Catechism quoting (I think) Aquinas.